This year, French Net Neutrality has been strongly targeted with Hadopi — the Government’s project aiming at cutting off the Internet access of people who fail to ‘respect’ copyright. And European Net Neutrality will have to face many threats in the year to come.
We, as Free Softwares supporters, know that Net Neutrality matters and that we should care about it, wherever the threat comes from. But we must also focus on those activists, whose actions contribute to strengthen the little landlocked area where the network does nothing more than carrying data, exactly like our pipes propel the water.
Recently, Net Neutrality-support association French Data Network (FDN), the first historical French ISP, underwent a sudden contract rupture from SFR, its ADSL provider. This is serious threat to Net Neutrality because this shows that big companies can have the power 1) to avoid competition 2) to control which company can or cannot provide Internet access. And this is where it gets dangerous: because FDN respects Net Neutrality while being a viable business, it disturbs SFR. It does so in two ways:
- SFR is also a telecoms company. Its violation of Net Neutrality not only involves DNS-manipulation, it also involves forbidding some protocols (such as the Skype protocol) so that potential competition cannot be possible.
- SFR is property of Vivendi-Universal, the number 1 music editor in the CD industry, which has been trying for years to lock the Internet in order to get more profit.
And this is why FDN disturbs, but also why we all should care for the integrity of the Internet. Because, big business or not, when it comes to freedom of expression and artistic creation, we should have the right to make sure that people are neither controlled nor monitored. This is what Net Neutrality is for. It is not fundamental itself, it is fundamental because it makes sure we have a framework that allow people to be free.
As Montesquieu said: a country that does not have the Separation of Powers defined has no Constitution at all.(*)
A worldwide Internet in which Network Neutrality is not defined has no Freedom at all.
This analogy was given by FDN president Benjamin Bayart during the political session of the 2009 RMLL in Nantes, about Net Neutrality and Freedom of speech on the Internet. He also exposed his views on Net Neutrality and his contention with SFR-Vivendi-Universal in an interview in French newspaper Libération. See the discussion going on here.
[*] Declaration of the rights of Man and of the Citizen, 1789. Article 16 « A society in which the observance of the law is not assured, nor the separation of powers defined, has no constitution at all. »